November 18, 1998

Yesterday in the NSW Parliament, the Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus formally announced the Labor Government’s country staffing intitiative. We’re also pleased to note that Chris Hartcher (Liberal Member for Gosford) and the State Opposition have acknowledged the important role played by your Union!

Yours fraternally,
Chris Read
State Secretary

Uncorrected Hansard Proof: Available to Authorised Persons Only.

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE 17 November 1998 ASSEMBLY

RURAL AND REGIONAL FIREFIGHTING
RESOURCES

Mr PRICE: My question without notice is to
the Minister for Energy, Minister for Tourism,
Minister for Corrective Services, Minister for
Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the
Premier on the Arts. What is the Government doing
to improve firefighting resources in rural and
regional New South Wales?

Mr DEBUS: I thank the honourable member
for his question and for his acute interest in all
aspects of fire services, especially in the Hunter
Valley. During the past four years the Carr
Government has substantially increased funding and
resources for the State’s two fire services: the New
South Wales Fire Brigade and the New South Wales
Rural Fire Service. Several months ago I informed
the House of funding allocations to rural fire
brigades around this State from an historic statewide
allocation of $70.5 million. Since coming to office
this Government has allocated more than $80
million for the purchase of 1,039 new and second-hand
tankers. That is approximately double that of
the former coalition Government during its last four
years in office.

In this year’s allocation funding has been
provided for the acquisition of 245 tankers,
including 152 new ones. The Government has
provided 583 new tankers in its four years of
government. The Fahey-Collins coalition allocated
funding for 234. We have also provided almost $26
million for the acquisition of reconditioned tankers.
The previous Government again lagged behind: it
provided funding of just $13.6 million. Today I am
pleased to announce another significant boost to
country firefighting resources, with the creation of
an additional 73 permanent firefighting positions
with the New South Wales Fire Brigade.

Mr Hartcher: All members of the union?

Mr DEBUS: Does the honourable member
object? This represents a 75 per cent increase in the
number of permanent firefighters across country
New South Wales. That means even better fire
protection for rural and regional parts of the State.
My colleague the Minister for Regional
Development will acknowledge that 73 new jobs in
country New South Wales is very good news for
regional economy. In fact, it represents an additional
investment in country New South Wales of more
than $2 million a year.

[Interruption]

I am sure that the honourable member will be
pleased to know that the Maitland fire station is one
of the 12 fire stations to have this firefighting fund
boosted. The 12 stations are among the busiest
country stations in the State, and they are: Armidale,
Bathurst, Dubbo, Goonellabah, Goulburn, Maitland,
Nowra, orange, Port Macquarie, Tamworth and
Tweed Heads. Last but not least, the honourable
member for Coffs Harbour will be pleased to know
that Coffs Harbour fire station is getting three extra
positions.

[Interruption]

If I were to match the number of permanent
firefighters in Coffs Harbour with the number of
shadows, I would have given him four. The 73 extra
permanent firefighters will complement the high
level of service already provided by the network of
2,864 permanent firefighters and 3,000 retained
firefighters across the State. The 73 positions are in
addition to five new firefighter positions at the
Broken Hill fire station recently announced by the
Premier. Today’s announcement follows consultation
between the fire brigades, local councils and, the
honourable member for Gosford will be relieved to
hear, the Fire Brigade Employees Union, the Rural
Fire Service and retained fire fighters, and it is a
credit to all concerned. The final details of the
allocation of these new permanent firefighter
positions are being negotiated with local councils.

The Carr Government is proud of its record of
support for the New South Wales Fire Brigades. In
the past four years the Government has provided
funding of more than $1.15 billion to the brigades,
including more than $25 million for the acquisition
of new fire engines across the State. Today’s boost
to country firefighting resources also complements
the additional firefighter jobs created through the
$18 million western Sydney fire station building
program, which will result in 12 new fire stations
and more than 100 new firefighter positions in
Sydney’s west.

The former coalition Government built no new
fire stations at all, notwithstanding the continued
expansion of the south and south-western suburbs of
Sydney. Consequently, those parts of Sydney have
not been served according to the appropriate
standard of fire cover. It is this Government that is
building no fewer than 12 new fire stations to
correct that extraordinary social inequity. The
Government is committed to ensuring that the
people of New South Wales have the best possible
protection from fire. The 73 new firefighter
positions to the 12 country stations will mean that
rural and regional New South Wales is even better
protected than ever from the scourge of fire.